Meditation, and particularly the mindfulness approach to meditation can bring you real improvement in health and in reducing the impact of stress. A body of research results, and many personal stories attest to this capacity for meditation practice to be an important part of health care.
In our ‘Meditation for Health’ courses and ongoing classes you learn and practice these methods in a very simple, easy-to-learn way.
So, what is this thing for which we use the term “meditation”?
For starters it probably could be called other names. The name “Meditation” is an english language translation that was adopted by various authors some 100 years ago for several terms from ancient languages such as Sanskrit and Pali (from the north Indian Himalayan region) and Chinese and Japanese. Terms for the sitting practices used and refined for millenia in several schools of Buddhism, and in the even more ancient disciplines of Yoga philosophy and meditation. But putting the name aside, what is the simple heart of these practices we usually now call meditation?
SITTING. Sitting with as best a degree of stillness as you can muster, and continuing sitting for a bit longer than you normally would, without any ‘thinking’ agenda to preoccupy you.
The above paragraph is a very reasonable description of meditation – with a bit of tongue in cheek, because it doesn’t really begin to tell you what to do. And that is good – you may not need to be told what to do. Or you may only need to be given a few more hints and instructions as you go along – progressively, as you begin to have some experiences of ‘Just Sitting’.
Certainly there is usually more to it. There can be ways of focusing upon breathing, upon your body or body relaxation, and other processes for achieving periods of mental stillness, or a slowed-down mental experience. But all of the more elaborate techniques are secondary to the more fundamental practice of developing a basic, stable sitting posture, and beginning to practice at simply staying with SITTING for periods of time.
Once you begin sitting like this you then find yourself having to deal with the many distractions and objections that your mind and body will certainly be in the habit of throwing up. And the rest of the learning, as we continually address in our classes and courses, is about YOU finding the best, most personally relevant and effective ways of focusing and remaining aware through these periods of stillness.
And interestingly, as you find your best WAY of proceeding with sitting in stillness, a great deal of relaxation can occur. It can occur even if you are not particularly focusing on relaxation. The relaxing can begin more with the muscles of the body and then flow through to your state-of-mind. Or it might be felt more as ‘mental relaxation’ and gradually flow through to the body and its muscle groups. In the end it is all part of the overall experience.
It is probably this mental and physical relaxation that is responsible for the observed and researched health benefits that can flow from meditation. Australian doctor, and pioneer of ‘therapeutic meditation’ Dr Ainslie Meares felt that it was this element of meditation that could affect hormone balance, and in turn immune system function. He wrote about this a lot in the 1960s and 1970s in articles in the Medical Journal of Australia and in his first book Relief Without Drugs (1967)
Areas of health and healing where meditation can have great effect include:
- Improving immune system function
- Stress management, stress relief, many stress-related conditions
- Chronic pain & headaches
- Anxiety, depression and related conditions
- Heart and vascular disease
- Poor sleep and difficulty relaxing
- Managing cancer and its effects *
* Therapeutic meditation has sometimes been described as an “alternative” cancer treatment, however this may not be the best way to describe it. Dr Ian Gawler (author of You Can Conquer Cancer, 1984 & revised 2012), and other medical centres that use meditation & mindfulness, do not describe it as an “alternative” treatment. It is quite simply understood as a valuable health-promoting practice that can be used alongside any combination of standard or unconventional cancer treatments a person is undertaking. For that matter it can also be very beneficial in a number of ways even if a person is not taking any treatment at a particular time.
Meditation for Health is right at the heart of the great, under-used potential of Patient Self-Help. While our media gives us so much information on medical breakthroughs and the importance of visiting your doctor, a person’s own contribution to getting well is at least 50% of the task. Nothing is more central in Patient Self-Help than how we deal with our own mental and emotional state-of-mind, which is where Meditation for Health can be of great benefit.
See Classes page for information on how and where you can learn with McRae Health.